Gabriel Fauré’s rationale for the composition of his Requiem is ambiguous. Although his parents had died only a few years before the early stages of its development in the late 1880s, he claimed that it was unrelated to this: "My Requiem wasn't written for anything – for pleasure, if I may call it that!" And while it was played at his own funeral in 1924, it was not ostensibly written for that either.
As a church organist for many years, Fauré was intimately familiar with the material for the mass for the dead, and so his omission of a full Dies Irae, and the inclusion of In Paradisium from the burial mass, might be considered intentional to his purpose. "Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest." Judgement has been suspended, but paradise has not, and in Fauré’s vision that heavenly rest is sumptuous and lush as the funeral architecture of the Père Lachaise cemetery on Boulevard de Ménilmontant.
This new interpretation of the Requiem is modelled upon the full orchestral score of 1899, in spite of an instrumentation that often diverges from Fauré. Most notably, the choir has been replaced by electronic voices of various types. The Mellotron keyboard, is a form of proto-sampler from 1963 that plays lengths of magnetic tape to simulate orchestral instruments. The choir tapes from this device have been sampled for some of the washes of choral voices in this recording. Furthermore a MIDI-controlled Vocoder has been deployed in the leading voice of the Introit & Kyrie of this Requiem: the Vocoder was first introduced as far back as the 1930s as a speech compression device for telecommunications, but has an illustrious history in electronic music through Wendy Carlos and Robert Moog in the 1970s through to numerous applications in the present day.
Perhaps most radically, several voices throughout this interpretation have been performed using Vocaloid technology. This has been most fully developed by Yamaha in Japan in their Hatsune Miku virtual pop star, although on this recording Alter/Ego software by Plogue Art et Technologie Inc was chosen for the idiosyncrasies of the upper range of its Bones voice. It is a happy coincidence that a French Vocaloid is at the heart of this characteristically French requiem.
With a selection of electronic voices replacing the human choir, this interpretation might be considered a post-human requiem. The angelic choirs have been superceded by machine voices from throughout the history of cybernetic music to lift this music, which is all too human in its vision of transcendence of the physical form, but nonetheless embodies a richness of lived experience recalled through the madeleines and the lime tisane of lost time. Perhaps that very transcendence might be achieved through an acceptance of the intangible algorithms of a machine intelligence that is our final legacy.
Music by Gabriel Fauré
MIDI transcription by David Siu
Programming, engineering and arrangement by Zali Krishna
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